Researchers say a fatal fish virus, Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS), has been found in Lake Superior meaning it has now spread to all the great lakes.
This week, Cornell University reported it had found trace amounts of VHS in samples taken from four sites in Lake Superior. VHS is not a health risk to humans but it can infect a number of native fish species, causing them to bleed to death.
The DNR says there is no evidence of a wide-spread outbreak in Lake Superior, and news of the disease won’t change state VHS rules. But the DNR says it does put an emphasis on the need to follow those rules.
Most important is a ban on harvesting minnows from Lake Superior, along with the requirement that no live fish be moved away from the lake. There is no way to eliminate or stop the spread of VHS, but everyone can play a role in slowing the spread. Statewide boaters and anglers are required to drain all water from fishing and boating equipment when leaving a lake. The DNR says this is one of the most common ways VHS is spread. “VHS has spread from Lake Michigan, now we’re finding it in Lake Superior, we found it in Lake Winnebago prior to that and it can be spread fairly easily,” said Bob Hujik, a Fish Team Supervisor with the DNR. “Especially by boaters with water in their live wells or through live fish.”
VHS has been found in 28 freshwater fish species within the great lakes since 2005. The DNR says it has the potential to wipe out entire fish populations.